Some people have lost their jobs and are looking to downsize their homes. Others want a bigger place to accommodate the need to work or school children from home. Still others are taking a wait-and-see attitude by postponing their earlier plans to buy or sell their homes.
And in the middle of it all are real estate professionals, working to best serve their clients in this shifting market. Although most real estate agents have increased their use of technology in recent years, the recent shut-downs and ongoing health concerns have caused them to rely almost entirely on it. However, the most successful agents are the ones who have pivoted their marketing strategies. They are embracing new technologies along with a new kind of good, old-fashioned customer service. We’ve identified four marketing strategies that real estate agents can use to stay at the top of their game during COVID and beyond.
1. Focus on service, not sales
You’ve probably heard the quotes, “Always be closing” and “Coffee’s for closers,” made famous in playwright David Mamet’s “Glengarry Glen Ross.” And real estate agents are salespeople, no question about it. But the year 2020 has turned us all upside down. With fewer active buyers and sellers in the market, top-performing agents are finding success by focusing on building long term relationships instead of short term sales.
Buyers and sellers are especially looking for information that will help them make real estate decisions. Top agents are showing value by offering news and updates on local market conditions, policy changes, and COVID news. Here are some examples of what topics agents are sharing to keep buyers and sellers actively engaged, and thus more likely to turn into potential customers in the future.
- updates on the virus and the number of cases in the local area
- updates on school re-openings
- updates on large construction or city projects that were impacted by COVID that could affect property values
- news on how the pandemic is affecting the local real estate and job market market
- news and projections on future mortgage rates, including federal assistance programs
- monthly numbers of new homes being listed in the area
- advice on practical help matters such as buying groceries and where to get COVID testing
Positioning yourself as a local authority in a time of crisis and someone who cares about more than the sale is a great way to develop your reputation. People remember that kindness, whether they are in the home market now or later. Here’s an example of an email Joseph Arendsen of TrueLocalRealty.com sent to his database during the early days of the pandemic.
Here’s a creative and caring way to help. As fires raged in her community in Shasta County, California, Jamie Anderson, owner of Avenue Real Estate Co., went into service mode. With so many families displaced by fires, Anderson contacted homeowners with vacant homes to ask if they would rent their properties for six months. She also helped residents find recreational vehicles for temporary housing.
“I’m a local San Diegan with 13 years selling real estate within this community, i’m fortunate to know people who may be able to help you out during these trying times...call me if you need anything. It does not need to be about real estate, it can be a personal issue, financial concerns, or life planning for the future. If I can help you in anyway, please call me.”
-Joseph Arendsen, True Local Realty Group
With fewer chances to meet in person with potential clients, real estate agents need to look for ways to reach people where they are -- on the internet. Another way to offer service to people who are spending so much of their time online these days is by offering a free webinar. What about hosting a webinar that offers tips on how to keep your home safe from wildfires or what about how to protect your home from storm damage? Another idea is to team up with a business in your community, such as a home improvement store or a staging service, to offer a webinar on basic improvements sellers can make to boost their listing price.
The chances are excellent that after the pandemic ends, the real estate industry will continue to rely heavily on technology. All the more reason for agents to add a warm, personal touch whenever they can. It matters even more than it did before. The agents who focus on building relationships through service now will be in position to get more business once the market recovers.
2. Adapt to new technology
Some agents are stuck in the “old school” ways of selling homes -- like magazine ads, direct mail, billboards, etc. -- without fully committing to the new technologies. For these agents, COVID has served as the proverbial kick in the pants to get with the times. A previous study found that adding video to listings generated a whopping 403% more inquiries compared to listing without video. However, during COVID video tours have become a necessity, and our data suggest they are here to stay.
Many agents use their smartphones to take these videos, but the ones that make the best impact feature professional photography and editing. Experts know how to stage the home and light it so that the camera captures it at its best. Also, a professional has the know-how to edit the video so that it includes all the details but is still under about two minutes in length.
Many platforms are making it easy for agents to post video tours along with their listings. Redfin.com, for instance, saw a nearly 500% jump for agent-led video tours last April amid the early days of the COVID shutdowns. You can highlight the special features of the home and give the buyers a sense of the flow of the home. However, clarity and lighting is crucial. Don’t be tempted to shoot these videos yourself. It’s worth it to hire a pro who will get it done right.
3. Virtual tours - aka 3D walkthroughs - are replacing open houses
One step up from a pre-recorded video tour – and one that has catapulted to stardom during the pandemic -- is the virtual tour, also known as 3D walkthroughs. When the pandemic caused open houses to be canceled throughout the U.S., top agents transitioned to technology for the next-best thing – live chatting with a customer while they take a 3D walkthrough.
According to a Q2 report by Homelight, 3D walkthroughs have overtaken video calls as the top tool agents use for facilitating sight unseen deals. You can lead a live walk-through with clients on FaceTime, Skype, or another video tool like Roundee. As a marketing tool, be sure to list your live virtual tours prominently on your listings, website, and social media posts.
When looking for methods to create your own 3D walkthroughs, be sure to consider the services of a professional who has the best equipment and experience for the job. Cellphones have limited panoramic capability because they are hampered by small sensors and low-quality lenses. This creates a low quality 3D walkthrough which could devalue a home you are trying to sell. To create a proper 3D walkthrough you will need proper equipment such as a special 360 camera, tripod, and gimbal.
4. Hook clients with news and images they can’t ignore
We all are going to divide time differently from now on, using a before-COVID and after-COVID dichotomy. If your website and social media pages reflect a before-COVID world, you may be losing clients. Your website is the hub for all your online messaging and may be the first place potential clients look. According to Statista, real estate websites are visited more than 120 million times each month, with Zillow getting up to 36 million unique monthly visitors.
How can you make a good first impression? Make sure it has new and exciting content, including updated pandemic information for your community and professional photographs and videos of your listings. In just a few clicks, potential clients should be able to get a good idea of who you are, the services you offer, and the listings you have available. Let’s look at a few top-performing agents in different parts of the country who have websites that stand out from the rest and keep their potential clients clicking through their impressive listings.
- Sharlene Chang’s website and Instagram conveys luxury and quality, and that’s just the market she is selling in Beverly Hills. Notice how the professional photos capture Los Angeles at different times of day. The website also helps her visitors navigate around the sprawling metropolitan area.
- New York City’s The Stein Team’s website uses sharp, full-screen images and a blue-grey color palette to convey a polished and professional mood.
- Classic, uncluttered, and sophisticated are adjectives that come to mind when you visit Memphis-based 901 Real Estate. The easy-to-navigate website feature clean, crisp professional images that look sharp and inviting at any size.
If you’ve gotten this far in this article, you’ve probably figured out that there is an underlying theme. It’s this -- professional photography is an essential component of the marketing strategy of top-performing agents. High-quality photos and videos really can separate the agents who are thriving in this changing environment from the ones who are treading water. Or worse yet, drowning.
If you’d like to hire a professional photographer in your area, it’s easy with Snappr. Snappr has the world’s largest network of professional photographers providing quality work on-demand. Photoshoots can be done anywhere and anytime - often with as little as two hours notice. Contact Snappr’s Enterprise Team today to get the real estate photos and videos you need, and your clients deserve like the examples below.